Avoid using passive voice unless…you know what you’re doing. Unintentional or careless use of passive voice bogs writing down and damages the reader’s experience. Used strategically, however, it can be super useful. A good example of this is in the blurb I posted on Thursday where I said, “The job of a business book is to represent not just the thinking and expertise but also the personality of its author.” In this case, I wanted you to focus on the job of the book, not the book as an entity.
Active voice would have been, “A business book’s job is to…” but look at what that does…it makes it all about the book, when the blurb is really about the author. By using the passive voice strategically I took the emphasis off the book and put it onto the author.
Later in that post, I do it again, “Even if it has all been done before—it hasn’t yet been done by you.” Active would have been — ”you haven’t done it yet.” I wanted you to land hard on “you” and so I said it the other way. It’s also more “musical” —something I’ll talk about in my next post.
When you’re reading, challenge yourself to notice useful applications of passive voice. But don’t try this at home—unless you are clear on what you’re trying to do!